by Rachel Stockman
Early Monday morning, the federal government will begin settlement talks with several alleged sexual abuse victims of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The mediation is a culmination of a civil case, which was filed back in 2008, which centers around how federal prosecutors handled the investigation into Epstein’s alleged victimization of underage girls. The case reveals how the feds came to a ‘sweetheart’ deal with the billionaire reportedly ignoring the rights of the alleged victims in the process. The recent filings in the case also raise legitimate questions about what else prosecutors would have discovered if the federal investigation had not come to an abrupt end with the promise of no prosecution.
First some background. In 2007, the feds entered into a secret non-prosecution agreement with the billionaire which ensured that Epstein and his ‘co-conspirators’ would not be prosecuted federally in exchange for Epstein’s guilty plea to state charges. Epstein served 13 months in a Florida prison and home detention for solicitation and procurement of minors for prostitution — which many believed was a mere slap on the wrist.
Attorneys for the victims in this case contend their clients’ rights were violated when the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida failed to notify them in a timely matter of this non-prosecution agreement — a deal these alleged victims (called Jane Doe’s in the case to protect their identities) would have objected to vigorously.
“The Government and Epstein conspired to conceal the NPA (non-prosecution agreement) from the victims to prevent them from joining any objection, and to avoid the firestorm of controversy that would have arisen if it had become known that the Government was immunizing a politically-connected billionaire and all of his conspiracies from the prosecutions of hundreds of federal crimes against minor girls,” the plaintiff’s attorneys wrote in a recent filing.
Jeffrey Epstein’s case was recently back in the spotlight after reports that former President Bill Clinton took at least 26 trips aboard his private jet, the ‘Lolita Express,’ even leaving behind his secret service agents on several occasions, according to flight records obtained by Fox News.
As a matter of law, the civil case centers around The Crime Victims’ Rights Act passed in 2004 which requires investigators to notify victims of proceedings, and afford them “the right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.” However, maybe more importantly, the case brings to light questions about what else would have been discovered if federal prosecutors had forgone the non-prosecution agreement and continued their investigation into the billionaire’s alleged illicit activity. Would anyone else have been implicated? What more could investigators have found?
I have spent hours and hours reading through the evidence and filings in this civil case. In my opinion, the young women make it clear from a series of documents obtained through discovery that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern Florida violated the very spirit of the federal law meant to protect victims. Not only do prosecutors negotiate a carefully worded non-prosecution agreement with Epstein’s attorneys, they apparently don’t notify dozens of his alleged victims until after the deal has been signed. When the feds did send out notifications in 2008, documents reveal the FBI made it appear as if the investigation was still ongoing, even though they knew full well that a deal had been reached with Epstein to end the investigation. If that’s not bad enough, attorneys for the alleged victims also presented evidence that prosecutors worked with Epstein’s attorneys to prevent the public disclosure of the non-prosecution agreement.
In my view, the U.S. Attorney’s office would never have taken such action in a criminal case if they hadn’t been heavily influenced by Epstein’s slew of heavy-hitter attorneys which include Alan Dershowitz, Kenneth Starr, Roy Black, and Jay Lefkowitz. That’s not to say that Epstein should have been charged or would have been found guilty of federal crimes. I am simply saying that I have little doubt that Epstein would have been treated differently if he was just your average middle-aged male pervert. A letter written by the former U.S. Attorney, Alexander Acosta, who oversaw the investigation, perfectly reveals the intense pressure put on prosecutors by Epstein’s defense team in the case. He wrote:
“…What followed was a year-long assault on the prosecution and the prosecutors. I use the word assault intentionally, as the defense in this case was more aggressive than any which I, or the prosecutors in my office, and previously encountered..
The defense strategy was not limited to legal issues. Defense counsel investigated individual prosecutors and their families, looking for personal peccadilloes that may provide a basis for disqualification.”
In February, the plaintiff’s attorneys, in a motion for summary judgment, asked a judge to find that federal investigators and prosecutors violated the law. “Despite the responsibilities to the victims, the Government chose instead to side with the man who had victimized them,” they wrote.
Instead of responding with a motion of their own, the feds agreed to enter into settlement discussions. A sure sign that prosecutors are aware that they could be in for some trouble. Those settlement talks begin Monday morning at 9:30 am in a federal court room in the Southern District of Florida, and I am told that the public is allowed to sit in for the beginning of the mediation. Jeffrey Epstein’s attorney, Roy Black, is also expected to be in attendance. He declined to comment on this case.
Update 3:45 p.m. 5/23/2016
The Sun-Sentinel reports that no settlement was reached today. Both sides will gather again in about two weeks.